English: View of Hilo Bay, oil on canvas paint...

Short, simple nature names are having a moment.

For girls, avian-inspired names like Lark and Wren are attracting attention.

For boys, coastal possibilities, like Cove and Reef are popping up.

Bay falls somewhere in between.  It’s a water name, to be sure, fitting in with choices like Ocean and Sea.  But Bay is also a stylish sound, heard in many a popular surname name.

In 2011, ABC Family’s series Switched at Birth debuted.  It’s the story of two families who discover that their daughters are not their biological children.  A hospital mistake sent the newborns home with the wrong mothers.  The series is notable for its use of ASL – American Sign Language – as one of the switched daughters is deaf.

The writers chose truly lovely names for both girls.  One daughter is Daphne Paloma.  The other is Bay Madeleine.

The third season will premiere this month, and so I found myself thinking: are there any formal name possibilities?  Does it work better for a boy or a girl?  Turns out there are plenty of options.

Getting to Bay: Popular Choices

Bacon is great, but a non-starter as a baby name.  And you could get to Bay from starts-with-Ba choices like Barrett.  But there are plenty of other options already in the US Top 1000.

Bailey – Party of Five made Bailey a staple for boys, but this surname name has a longer history of use for girls.  Today, it ranks #79 for Team Pink, with variant spellings Baylee, Bailee and Bayleigh also charting.  It’s relatively rare for boys nowadays, but could still wear well on a son.

Baylen – Strictly speaking, this name isn’t in the Top 1000, much less the most popular names in the US.  But it fits with the mix-and-match style of names – Jaylon and Kayden and so on.  No one would be surprised to meet a Bailyn in 2014, though the most popular B variations add an -r – think of Brayden.

Getting to Bay: Surname Names

Baker – As occupational surnames goes, Baker is pretty sweet.  With that great -r ending and the vibrant long a sound, Baker feels as wearable as Smith or Jones – and about as uncommon.  Despite the rise of Hunter and CarterBaker remains pretty rare.

Bayard – It’s the name of a magical horse in Old French legends, and the color of his coat – baie, or reddish-brown.  It’s been in use as a surname and place name over the centuries, and as a given name, it has potential.

Baylor – The Texas university is named for its founder’s surname.  It also feels like a smoosh of Bailey and Taylor.  As institutions of higher learning go, it certainly makes for a wearable choice.

Getting to Bay: Other Options

Baden – The German spa town Baden Baden is pronounced more like cotton, making this an unlikely candidate for a formal name for Bay.  Except that I think the long a pronunciation is more intuitive in English.  You could add an -i or a -y to make the pronunciation clear.  Or is this one more like Baylon and company?

Bae – I was so very excited to stumble on this one, a Korean name.  Except it appears to be a surname.  And the ae sounds like the a in bat.  That should take Bae off this list, but let’s imagine you’re after a culture-spanning name.  Would Bae work?  I’m not sure, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

Barbara – Is this saintly classic due for a comeback yet?  Maybe not.  But nickname options abound, from Barbie and Babs to – why not? – Bay.

Bayou – It’s a noun name from the natural world with a Cajun and Creole twist.  I hear Creedence Clearwater Revival as soon as I see this name, and yet … in our age of River, why can’t we consider other bodies of water as given names?

What do you think of Bay as a given name?  Would you use a formal option?  Which one?  And does it work better for a boy or a girl?


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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I have a cat called Baylen 🙂 Its a great name, reminds me of Game of Thrones.

  2. One of my favourite actors is the British actor Mathew Baynton. I wonder if Baynton would work as a full name for Bay.

  3. Love this! My 3yo Bayard “Bay” gets so many compliments on her name all the time and I’m glad we named her before it showed up on more people’s radars. I’m hoping her new sister Marguerite “Maple” likes her name as much.